Review: CSN kick off Britt season with mellow, heartfelt show

Mail Tribune
June 02, 2008
By Bill Varble

It figured that Crosby, Stills and Nash would kick off their show - and Britt's summer season - with an acoustic version of "Wasted on the Way." The song has taken on a patina of hard-won wisdom over the years:

I am older now

I have more than what I wanted

But I wish that I had started long before I did.

It's remarkable how many CSN songs have aged well. Like "Long Time Gone," "49 Reasons" and "Immigration Man," which just happened to be the second, third and fourth songs of the first set. Maybe a point was being made.

Of course, there's another unpopular war being fought for reasons even less clear than the one that sparked some of CSN's more memorable songs the first time around.

"Speak out against this madness," said an energized, black-clad, barefoot Graham Nash.

There was "Military Madness" ("killin' my country"), with some choice words for George W. Bush from Nash, and its "no more war" chorus.

"Isn't It About Time" rocked, with Nash grabbing a tambourine and urging on drummer Joe Vitale. For the lovely "Cathedral" Nash played keyboard with Crosby singing harmony, and the whole thing lurched forward with that surprising tempo shift.

CSN songs have chronicled the transformations of our times for 40 years, since the supergroup formed out of the ashes of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Hollies. When they first happened it was a revolutionary sound: Crosby was the sweet-voiced folkie, Stills the whiskey-voice firebrand, Nash the high harmony note that completed the gestalt.

Those dynamics are still pretty much in place, with Nash fronting the band, Crosby's voice as sweet as ever, Stills occasionally leaving the stage but returning to provide Fender fireworks here and there.

A special treat was the addition of Rogue Valley guitarist Jeff Pevar for the gently loping "Lay Me Down" and the bossa nova inflected "Jesus of Rio," a song about symbols, devotion and humanity that Nash and Pevar wrote together.

"I can't do that," Stills said of Pevar's turn.

"But he's not Stephen Stills," Nash reminded him.

So it went. "Deja Vu" took off after a confusing start, then swooped low for the "We have all been here before" part. The first set ended with Stills' "Dark Star." Stills' voice is rougher than it used to be, but the thing chugged along infectiously.

It wasn't lost on the crowd that these men had sung some of these songs at Woodstock 39 years ago. Jacqueline Hope, of Grants Pass, was there.

"It strikes a chord of being young and free," she said. "Some part of myself, after all this time, it just opens that up."

The first set felt like Crosby, and especially Stills, were buoyed by Nash. If it never quite got down and rocked, it provided some beautiful moments. The second set was mellower still, coming out of the gate with a string of acoustic numbers introduced by "You Don't Have to Cry" with just the three singing around Stills' keyboard like three old friends in somebody's rec room. "Helplessly Hoping" got a lilting, touching treatment and was followed by the beautiful "Carry Me."

As Crosby delivered his classic "Guinnevere" accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar, accompanied by Nash's voice, a big smile spread over his face. Lest things get too mushy, Nash griped after the song about hearing it thousands of times. Crosby replied he never played it the same - because he could never remember how.

"Our House" was a sing-along, with the audience carrying on: "Everything is easy 'cause of you." The ballad "As I Come of Age" had Stills back on the keyboard and Nash blowing mouthharp. Crosby's "Delta" was not only gorgeous, he told a story about Jackson Browne forcing him to finish writing it at Warren Zevon's piano.

"Wounded World," a get-down blues, finally rocked, as did "Southern Cross," and as did, particularly, Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" ("stop, hey, what's that sound"). Crosby sang a nice "Almost Cut My Hair," and all three took it home with a long, strong "Wooden Ships" that made any thought of an encore redundant. Whatever else CSN are at this point, they know who they are, and they do a generous show.